Patriots, Partisans and Land Pirates in Retrospect

  • Charles J. Esdaile


Summarizing two days of lively academic debate is not an easy task, and is one that will not be attempted here. Suffice to say that the symposium on which this collection of essays was based was united in its recognition of the facts; first, that the subject of armed popular resistance in Napoleonic Europe is an area of which we still know surprisingly little that is worthy of further exploration, and, second, that its investigation on a continent-wide scale is not something that could ever be attempted by a single scholar working on his or her own. As in the case of the governance, organization, implantation and impact of the Napoleonic empire, the way is therefore open for a variety of collaborative research projects. Where individual scholars can make a difference lies rather in the study of individual states, territories, regions or districts, and in this respect the hope was duly expressed that the revolts in Spain, Portugal, Calabria, northern Italy, the Tyrol and Germany would all receive further attention. Other topics that were raised as possibilities, meanwhile, include outbreaks of guerrilla warfare beyond the confines on the Napoleonic empire — the obvious examples are Finland and Serbia — and the extent of popular participation in the climactic campaigns of 1812, 1813 and 1814. It was noted, however, that even the more limited approach inherent in country-by-country studies was not without its difficulties: if one thing is apparent in relation to the subject of ‘people’s war’ in the age of Napoleon, it is that those who work in it must be polymaths who are capable of assimilating a wide variety of different approaches to their subject — who must, in short, be able to combine an understanding of, say, agrarian unrest with one of the origins and development of la petite guerre.


Guerrilla Warfare French Army French Soldier Russian Army Regular Army 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    H. von Brandt, In the Legions of Napoleon: the Memoirs of a Polish Officer in Spain and Russia, 1808–1813, ed. J. North (London, 1999), p. 186.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    H. Fisher, Napoleonic Statesmanship: Germany (Oxford, 1903), pp. 370–2. For a very helpful, discussion of the economic impact of French rule on the Rhineland, cf.Google Scholar
  3. M. Rowe, From Reich to State: the Rhineland in the Revolutionary Age, 1780–1830 (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 193–210. His conclusion confirms the impression given by Fisher, viz. ‘The Rhineland was economically stronger at the end of the Napoleonic period than at the beginning.’ Ibid., p. 209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 6.
    For the banditry and unrest that gripped the Rhineland in the 1790s, cf. T.C.W. Blanning, The French Revolution in Germany: Occupation and Resistance in the Rhineland, 1792–1802 (Oxford, 1983), pp. 286–316.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    For a discussion of the military situation in Spain and Portugal at the beginning of the Peninsular War, cf. C.J. Esdaile, The Peninsular War: a New History (London, 2002), pp. 46–64 passim.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    F.G. Eyck, Loyal Rebels: Andreas Hofer and the Tyrolean Uprising of 1809 (New York, 1986), pp. 59–60.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    For some details of the barbetti, as they were called in Piedmont, cf. M. Broers, Napoleonic Imperialism and the Savoyard Monarchy, 1773–1821: State Building in Piedmont (New York, 1997), pp. 134–5.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    For the revolt in Piacenza, cf. M. Broers, Europe under Napoleon, 1799–1815 (London, 1996), p. 104.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    The Dos de Mayo has yet to receive the scholarly analysis which it deserves. However, for a relatively recent Spanish account, cf. J.C. Montón, La revolución armada del Dos de Mayo en Madrid (Madrid, 1983).Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    M. Finley, The Most Monstruous of Wars: the Napoleonic Guerrilla War in Southern Italy, 1806–1811 (Columbia, South Carolina, 1994), p. 26.Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    R. de Damas, Memoirs of the Comte Roger de Damas, 1787–1806, ed. J. Rambaud (London 1913), pp. 398–9.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    H. Bunbury, Narratives of some Passages in the Great War with France from 1799 to 1810 (London, 1854), p. 222.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    For a digest of these views, cf. C.J. Esdaile, The Wars of Napoleon (London, 1995), pp. 119–20.Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    For all this, cf. J.L. Tone, The Fatal Knot: the Guerrilla War in Navarre and the Defeat of Napoleon in Spain (Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1994), pp. 9–41, 162–71 passim.Google Scholar
  15. 22.
    Finley, Most Monstruous of Wars, pp. 28–30; E. Bousson de Mairet (ed.), Souvenirs Militaires du Baron Desvernois, Ancien Général au Service de Joachim Murat, Roi de Napoles, Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur et de l’Ordre Real de Deux Siciles (Paris, 1858), pp. 103–4.Google Scholar
  16. 25.
    C. Bourachot (ed.), Souvenirs Militaires du Capitaine Jean-Baptiste Lemonnier-Delafosse (Paris, 2002), pp. 57–8.Google Scholar
  17. 27.
    R. Muir (ed.), At Wellington’s Right Hand: the Letters of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Alexander Gordon, 1808–1815 (London, 2003), p. 174. The full story of what went on behind Massena’s lines in the winter of 1810–11 has never been documented. However, for a most thoughtful and well-researched fictional version, cf.Google Scholar
  18. C.S. Forester, Death to the French (London, 1932).Google Scholar
  19. 31.
    E.g. B. Menning, ‘The imperial Russian army, 1725–1796’, in F. Kagan and R. Higham, The Military History of Tsarist Russia (London, 2002), p. 70.Google Scholar
  20. 33.
    A. and Y. Zhmodikov, Tactics of the Russian Army in the Napoleonic Wars (Westchester, Ohio, 2003), I, p. 5.Google Scholar
  21. 34.
    C. Duffy, Borodino and the War of 1812 (London, 1973), p. 39. For Kosciuszko’s views, cf. Zhomodikov, Tactics of the Russian Army, p. 3.Google Scholar
  22. 36.
    G. Rothenberg, The Art of War in the Age of Napoleon (London, 1977), p. 195.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Charles J. Esdaile 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charles J. Esdaile

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations